My daughter stands on the front porch every morning and waves goodbye to me as I pull out of the driveway to go to work.
She is 11, and recently eye-rolling, long sighs, and tears have become more commonplace in our daily interactions. But, there is also this: “Bye! Have a good day!” she calls to me in the quiet of early morning, neighbors not yet awake in their still dark houses.
“You are AMAZING! You got this!” she continues in her little adult voice, sounding more like a soccer mom than a fifth grader.
Her hair is still a messy halo around her head, and I only see the dark outline of her body in the porch light as I drive out of sight, but I know she is hopping on the cold pavement in her bare feet and her hands are wrapped tightly around her pajamaed body to keep warm when she isn’t waving.
I leave my window down and let the winter air carry her voice to me as long as possible. Quite simply, this is the best part of my day. My daughter’s words of encouragement not only serve as my little morning pep talk before heading to my classroom full of students, but they also remind me that what I say to her leaves a lasting impression.
On the sideline of the soccer field, I tend to go through a rotation of a few tried and true cheers. You got this! and Finish strong! happen to be two of my most frequent outbursts. You see, I’m an expert at these generic cheers as I lack the sports jargon necessary for more specific ones.
However, this seems to have paid off. After years of shouting these sentiments of support from the sideline, my daughter now shouts them to me from our front porch. A validation of many hours spent watching her grow and mature in the sport she loves.
For seven years, I have embraced the role of a soccer mom. When my daughter first started playing, it was much easier. We weren’t juggling other school activities and homework. There was only one practice and one game a week, and there was a complete unawareness of the score.
These days, it is a little more involved. More practices, more games, and a whole lot more emotions regarding winning or losing. In the flurry of our busy weeks, balancing school and sports and family time, I’m often left questioning why my kids are playing SO MANY sports. Why are they involved in SO MANY activities? Between work and my children’s activities, when do I have time for myself? Forget about that. When do I even have time to clean the kitchen?
But then, on cold, dark mornings, I hear her repeat those words of encouragement she has heard from my own mouth for years, You got this! and I know it is all worth it.
So now, in this busy, busy season of parenting, I try to take her advice. I got this! I just need to remind myself of this during all of those hours in a car, driving to practices and games and tournaments far, far away. All of those rushed dinners before practice. All of those hours consoling and wiping tears after the tough losses. All of those late nights after practice completing forgotten homework and projects. All of those hours cheering on the sideline.
The sitting and watching and waiting are all worth it if she can run off the field with the confidence she needs to thrive in this world. They are all worth it if she is learning lessons that will make her stronger and more determined and successful in life. They are all worth it if she can sense when others need to hear encouragement and happily offer it.
So, as my daughter echoes my own words in the early morning hours, I know it does not necessarily mean I won’t feel exhausted and grumpy as we roll back home after a late indoor soccer practice. It doesn’t mean I won’t snap in frustration when she tells me she still needs to finish a homework assignment. But, it does mean that it’s all worth it. Together, we will take these words to heart as we navigate the business of growing up and balancing our busy lives.
We’ve got this.